— Bryan Fuller (@BryanFuller) October 20, 2014
That’s my art in both his hands… God, would you just look at that smile? I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am that this photo was taken. He loved my art, and he was so unbelievably sweet to me – I’m still on cloud 9. 🙂
This story starts at the end, which occurred late Saturday night. It is a tapestry made up of essential players and moments, precision strategy and serendipitous fortune…within this story are true revelations of heady power and gut wrenching neurosis. But…it is a tapestry and every stitch of it plays its part in the making of the beautiful memory that will hang on the walls of my mind for the rest of my life.
The story ends by means of a beginning that led me to a gazebo made of thatched white wood, covered in green ivy. Many moments had been experienced by this time, being that the story starts on Friday afternoon, but it was not until the gazebo that all moments made sense – this is where the tapestry was strewn with gilded threads and hung upon a brass dowel…this was where – after the final and most meaningful threads were woven in, one could stand back and see the masterpiece that would need its own room in the palace of my mind.
We – Karen and I – had business to do. It was around 2 in the morning, and we saw the man by the gazebo – he was Josh, the brother of Katherine Isabel – the woman who played Margot Verger, in Hannibal. We had befriended him earlier on and our business with him was about tracing down a photo he’d taken of myself, Katherine and Karen, with Katherine – who we now know as Katie – holding a portrait that I’d done of her – one that apparently blew her mind, causing her to gasp and say, “Holy shitcakes.” She was blown – she loved it. We approached Josh. Behind him, his sister, Katie, sat on the bench in the gazebo, talking with Mads Mikkelsen.
Josh, enormously generous in spirit and friendliness, was no doubt playing protector to his lovely sister. It worked, as we were virtually all alone, save for a few people in the distance. Karen, who was very interested in continuing on with her previous conversation with Katie, asked Josh if he minded if she talked with her. Josh, immediately smiled, and if he didn’t somehow magically disappear – as genies tend to do – he vaporized out of the scene, leaving me standing in front of a very tipsy, extraordinarily warm and relaxed Mads.
Karen and Katy immediately got into their conversation, and Mads stood up – beer affects this man in a very, very good way. He stood close and hugged me tight – truly, there was no solicitation on my part, it was of his own doing and I loved it.
He was unburdened by the work of signatures and photo ops – he was merely this tall, skinny straw man, filled with love and kindness – open to touch, open to being touched – happy. While hugging me, we must have twirled though I don’t remember how I got inside the gazebo with him…he took a step back and the sunglasses that he kept atop his head caught in the vines. My natural reaction was to help – I readjusted his glasses, sliding them back into his very soft, lanky hair. Yes, there was gel, but it felt very conditioned and soft. He smiled and said that it was appropriate for us to wear vines and flowers in our hair, looking to me for acknowledgment – then he said, “We are children of the sixties, you and I…” implying that we are hippy children, and hippy kids wear flowers in their hair. He stared into my eyes.
It hadn’t hit me what he had just done – but I realized after that this was the connection I so desperately needed to make with him. In that moment – he was acknowledging my age, and not only mine, but his. He and I were the oldest people there… and I had been having a particularly hard time the day before, coming to terms with who I was, what I looked like, how I could never again be the prettiest girl in the room, or how I could never ever be a sexy young thing – I had separated myself from everyone in a few self pitying moments of doubt, and Mads – out of nowhere – swooped in and affirmed that I was not alone – he was my flower child brother, the both of us, grappling with the utter beauty of life, seeing how fleeting every second of it is, and how the great beauty of all is in the moment.
There were jokes, Karen and Katy were back in the conversation, we spoke of Bryan Fuller, he said, “I don’t want to shock anyone but – Bryan Fuller is gay!” He jumped back a step to emphasize with jester-like comic timing… I responded in mock disbelief, saying that I found that statement to be odd being that I’d slept with Bryan just the night before. Mads laughed…more jokes, more this and that, and as the moment came to it’s natural closure, Mads – once again, out of nowhere, slipped over to me, grabbed my arm, pulled me close and kissed me on my cheekbone, right beneath my right eye – his mouth was open and I felt the softness of his lips.
It was just… beautiful. He gave me the connection. He connected to me, as a child of the 60s, which I am, also born only a few days after him, both late November babies – he made me feel like a beautiful woman, a peer, someone who had lived a long enough time to acquire certain mutual knowledge…he connected to me and sealed it with a kiss.
And, in the beginning, there was the first vision, the signings, the art and the photo. This was Friday afternoon.
I can only call him darling – I do not know why, but every time I addressed him, I called him darling. I told him he was my muse, a great inspiration to me, the spirit that moved my hand to create. It had been my intention to deliver many gifts of art to Mads, which I did. I brought him a copy of my art book, Beauty, which he took one look at the cover and said, “I love it all, already.” I had him sign Diabolique, a large poster version of my favorite painting of him as Hannibal Lecter, which he instantly loved,. I asked him if he could write something special to me in Danish, perhaps a magic word, something I could use to enhance the muse-like concentration. He smiled very warmly at this thought. He was careful not to destroy the art and wrote only in the white space. His words, in Danish, were simple enough – and yet, he gave me exactly what I asked for – a magic word, which he pointed out.
1000 TAK FOR GAVEN
and his signature.
He translated it for me: 1000 thanks for the gifts.
He then stood to take a photo with me, wrapped his arm around me and bent close to my head. My hand on his back – I caressed him, feeling for shoulder blade, muscle and bone. His back allowed for my touch with willingness. He was open. The photo was taken, and I took my leave.
1000 Tak for gaven.
…anyone who knows me knows that my letter is V. It’s always been, it always will be. When I saw the V, everything unraveled. And then I saw the word, I saw the magic…and I saw that what was more than likely a completely unconscious move on his part – was designed in the subconscious – he wrote my word, he gave me my word, and that word broke down in ways that almost broke my mind.
One week ago, I brought forth a muse named Vena.
I googled the word gaven for fun. Beneath the definition, which is “gifts’ – plural – it said, Gaven is an anagram for Vange.
Vange, means Angel. V’Ange. Angel V. My Angel. My Angel and my name – Evan.
Then, I went into a coma. I had no idea of what was to come, all I know is that I was completely starstruck and dumbfounded. I had spent a life being the star, being the person who received the adoration – I was unused to being in the crowd. And though, I chose to to go the route of the fandom – and love this fandom very much – I needed that thing that would somehow separate me from the crowd; I suppose everyone wants an individual experience – I did, and I wanted it so bad that I could hardly live in the moment. I did, however, choose to place myself as artist, and work in the fandom as artist… I was used to being an intense observer, one whose manifestation of love would present as soulful, soul bearing art – that was my calling card. But being in his presence thrust me so high into the stratosphere that I could only see how hard I was about to fall, and as I fell, I saw my years, my vanity, my older face and body, and somehow – I forgot that I was great – I forgot that I was The Artist and that being able to create that art came from a life of pain and experience, that I’d done and seen so very, very much, that I’d been in the presence of greatness so many, many times, and that I too had a portion of greatness to share – but, the height, the dizzying, heady buzz of being next to Mads Mikkelsen who is at once both completely alien and more down to earth than possible, revved up so much emotion in me that for a moment there, as Radiohead says, I lost myself.
That night, still Friday, we attended the VIP Party – I was still locked in my stuck place, a supernova of emotion all pent up with no release, no explanation…Karen, who is truly a gift of the cosmos and a soul sister I hope to cherish as a best friend for many years to come, was dancing in her free spirit way and I was there, looking like I was about to be burned at the stake…Mads comes in, schmoozes with everyone and anyone, and I slink up to him, hold my arms out – I have absolutely nothing to say – and he hugs me tightly while saying, “I would love to hug you.”
That warmed me up and began my process – I was on my way to opening up again.
By Saturday morning, I was in a great mood, having understood and allowed in the meaning of the magic word, ‘gaven’ and the magic phrase, 1000 tak for gaven…. 1000 thanks for the gifts…and the gifts were coming to me. Next stop would be the Q and A that evening. By then, all was well in my world. I asked my question, enjoyed it all, and felt that – if this was my experience, then so be it! I’d received my gift – he handed me a precious gift…however, I had no idea how personal it was to become.
And so, we conclude by the gazebo…where serendipity had us placed under the stars together, where a vine of leaves wrapped him up and allowed for me to untangle him, where he acknowledged me as I am, a child of his own decade, a sister of the flowers, a hippy baby who was desirable enough to hug many times – He saw me and allowed me to see him – that he too, wondered of age, but made no care of it, living in the moment, enjoyed the moment, the brilliance of life, the stars and the connections he made – the gifts he received and the gifts he gave – all one, all connected, and beneath the drunken smile, a fierce intelligence, always conscious, a deep stare into my eyes that said, “sister, the gift we are sharing is this moment, it is ours forever more and to make it palpable, I will hold you, hug you close to me, and kiss you demurely so that you can feel my life, my mouth on your lashes…take this moment as I will take the moment you give, and for this, we can share in the one thousand thanks.”
If, for whatever reasons you still haven’t read my book, I suggest you read this incredible review by Kristi Anderson. It may inspire you to read it. Thanks, as always, to Kristi.
Though the book title and cover suggest an epic other-world fantasy, the storyline of this novel by first-time author Dori Hartley is rooted in something far more sinister – the horrors too often inflicted by humans on each other. Who needs vampires and demons when cheating husbands, abusive mothers, and murdering sons are all too happy to step out of the understudy’s shadow?
And so the story goes in Hartley’s gripping page-turner, “Angels and Echoes,” a character study in how far one can be stretched in the directions of selfless love and pure evil before the deeds themselves catapult us into either angelic or demonic status.
From the first page, the reader is immediately thrust into the parallel storylines of New Yorker Olivia Lang and Kentucky-based Evan McQuayle, two protagonists each fighting their own demons that unfortunately know no cultural or geographic boundaries – breast cancer and child abuse.
I offer no spoilers on how their two very different worlds collide, but when they do, it is with a force so powerful that the reader truly won’t see it coming. And once you see it, you won’t want to look away even for a moment, no matter how difficult some passages are to read. It is as if the author grabs you by the nape of the neck and forces you to stare into the sun, never allowing you to break your gaze. Hartley is not afraid to display in grotesque, almost eye-blinding, color what many of us would prefer remain greyed out in the darkness.
But here’s the thing – and this is a spoiler I don’t mind sharing – goodness always wins in the end. It may not seemingly be in equal proportion to the horrors experienced, and it may not wrap up in complete storybook fashion, but this reader does believe that good always prevails. Through each of their own tragedies, Olivia and Evan offer each other – and their growing and strangely intertwining tribe of family and friends – unconditional love and redeeming hope in proportions that are truly life-saving. And let me be clear: this is not the blind, sugar-coated love of fairytales. This love is real, raw, flawed, gritty, sweaty. In a word, human.
Truthfully? I thank the author for displaying the violence and vulgarity in such epic, heart-breaking fashion, because it only heightens my awe of the perfect power of good to conquer evil in our lives – if we allow it to. And that is the key: whatever dungeon of misery we are plummeted into, whatever grave of despair we’ve dug for ourselves, most of us are not so far down that we can’t help another up — especially those who have absolutely no capacity for helping themselves. The power of good, though immense, needs our seemingly puny human actions and humble missteps to animate and propel it into action. As the pace picks up – and as this book so beautifully exemplifies – a force that great can only multiply and grow to outshine any shadow.
With such a richly painted canvas to feast our eyes upon, it’s hard to believe that this is the author’s first novel. It reads with the pace, thrill and intrigue reminiscent of Stephen King or Dan Brown. Lofty comparisons, but well earned. In fact, this reader put the book down only once, and I will tell you that the ending left me begging for more.
With all of its twists and turns, this universal story of good and evil – rendered anew in this author’s deft hands – transforms rejection into redemption; betrayal into loyalty; manipulation into pure intention and grace. And, abuse into love.
Redemption. Loyalty. Pure intention. Grace. Love.
What a beautiful ending, yet these possibilities are always with us from the beginning.
In the end, Dori Hartley is a first-rate story teller, dare I say a literary angel, who delivers an important message about rejection and redemption. And I, for one, hope that her compelling plots and unforgettable characters continue to echo and resonate with all of us for many more books to come.
Emotional pain can be a fantastic prompt for the creation of art. This is no new news. And for some artists, it’s not just about deriving inspiration from instances of pain and bending them into works of art — it’s about finding one’s self so broken by an upheaval (or upheavals) that creating art is the only way to stop the pain from consuming the artist whole. The pain is like a disease of the soul and it must be bled out in order for the host to survive. That’s why the best and most meaningful art is made up of authentic and oft times painful experiences that have been manipulated into beauty, through words, visuals, music and so on.
There is a threshold and the artist exists on both sides of it. Before this symbolic tollbooth of sorts, the artist stands with the knowledge that they’ve been betrayed, or lied to, or humiliated, or made fun of, or cheated on, or cheated of — you get the point. So, there they stand with their arms full of all this pain, and they know that the only way to get rid of it is by creating their art. Art is the payment for the freedom from the pain.
Now this whole ‘getting rid of the pain’ thing is not just about self indulgence. It’s about taking something terrible and making something beautiful out of it. That’s why it’s ART — it’s creative, not destructive.
Anyway, back to the threshold. It’s like a magical passage where all the pain is processed into beauty, and once on the other side, the artist has the option of either releasing this beauty into the world (hopefully as good and meaningful art), or returning for more pain. It’s a personal choice and both options are frequently visited. Until of course, the pain runs out. Then they can draw and write about pretty puppies and how love makes the world go ’round.
I have spent countless years purging betrayal. It seems to be the number one ‘troublesome inspiration’ in my life, though I’ve learned to shy away from mostly everything that could possibly hurt me on that level. Like, um, people. Good ol’ people. And such a vicious circle too, because who else do I create my art for if not people? Oh no, it’s never been just for me, in fact, I laugh when I hear artists claim that they create just for themselves. Especially when they’re standing on a platform, singing it for all to hear and… approve of.
So, we create our art to purge ourselves of pain, which we show to people who in turn…destroy our art with their insensitive treatment of it — because, thanks to technology and the internet, these are the days of the rapid-fire insult. It’s nothing to hurt an artist or writer now, in fact, it’s encouraged. So…suddenly, this miraculous release, this amazing and most wonderful path by which we can end all of our pain as we know it – art – becomes this thing that, once it’s viewed by other people, can now be instantly defiled by those with the freedom to shoot their damned mouths off. The Art Killers.
We search for freedom through creation, but freedom invites everyone in. Even those who — because they cannot create art — choose to destroy it. Just for fun. Or perhaps it’s because they are seething with sickening jealousy. Because truly, to live without a productive outlet to diminish the pain of life can only create one kind of person: an anonymous, talentless critic.
So, for those of you who disrespect art to such a degree that you cannot even put your name to your degrading words, read this as I watch you weep:
Fuck you. You create nothing but pain. You add nothing to this world. You attach yourself to greatness like an engorged leech, but make no mistake — as much as you glut yourself on all the beauty there is in this world, in the end all you are is full of shit and everyone knows it. So please, go get a job or something. And for fuck’s sake, use your real name. That anonymous name game — it’s old and it’s as useless as you know yourself to be.